Assessing Company Culture: Questions to Ask

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As you consider pursuing a specific job or signing on with a specific employer, you won’t be focusing solely on what you have to offer. It’s important to impress your interviewer and direct her attention to your skills and talents…But it’s just as important to turn the spotlight in the other direction. What can this company do for you? Is this really a place where you’d like to spend your days and invest your loyalty? Is this company culture a match for your personality, your needs, your work ethic, and your long-term career plans? Here are a few questions that can help you assess the likelihood of a mutually beneficial match. Ask these questions during your interview process or submit them to your employer by phone or email before you accept an offer.

First, know what you’d like to hear.

Before you ask about this company and this workplace, have some understanding of the kinds of answers that do and don’t work for you. For example, do you prefer a competitive or collaborative environment? Do you do your best work alone or as a member of a lively, interactive team? Do you want non-stop, hands-on coaching and constructive criticism, or would you rather have a little more autonomy and the freedom to learn and grow in your own way? Answer these questions on your own before you present them to your employer.

Ask narrative questions.

During your interview, your employer will probably ask you questions that can be answered in the form of a story. For example, if she wants to know how you respond to setbacks, she may ask you to describe an episode from your past in which you failed and learned from the experience. So feel free to frame your questions in the same way. For example: “Have you ever had a conflict in this workplace over (insert issue that matters to you)? How was this issue eventually resolved?”

Find out if the company’s plans align with your own.

Your employer will probably ask you to describe where you see yourself in five years. She’ll be doing this so she can assess how well your long term goals mesh with the company’s goals, and she’ll want to make sure this place can accommodate your expectations for training, growth, and advancement. Make sure she shares her half of this equation. Ask where the company and the department expect to be in five years and how you might fit into those plans if you accept this position. If you’d like to leave this job and climb to the next rung of the ladder before that timeline expires, make sure this will be possible.

For more on how to get the most out of your interview so you can move forward with your career plans, contact the staffing team at CSS.

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